A Sudden Resuregence of Religion
As the twentieth century approached its close, therefore, nothing seemed less likely than a sudden resurgence of religion as a subject of consuming global importance. Yet that is precisely what has now occurred in the form of a groundswell of anxiety and discontent, much of it still only dimly conscious of the sense of spiritual emptiness that is producing it.
Ancient sectarian conflicts, apparently unresponsive to the patient arts of diplomacy, have re-emerged with a virulence as great as anything known before. Scriptural themes, miraculous phenomena and theological dogmas that, until recently, had been dismissed as relics of an age of ignorance find themselves solemnly, if indiscriminately, explored in influential media. In many lands, religious credentials take on new and compelling significance in the candidature of aspirants to political office. A world, which had assumed that with the collapse of the Berlin Wall an age of international peace had dawned, is warned that it is in the grip of a war of civilizations whose defining character is irreconcilable religious antipathies. Bookstores, magazine stands, Web sites and libraries struggle to satisfy an apparently inexhaustible public appetite for information on religious and spiritual subjects.
Perhaps the most insistent factor in producing the change is reluctant recognition that there is no credible replacement for religious belief as a force capable of generating self-discipline and restoring commitment to moral behaviour.